The Making of Bling Quilt Part 1 of 4 – Choosing Fabrics

I enjoy sharing my process of quilt making so that you can have more success when you make your own quilts. Over the next 4 blog posts, I’ll share my process for making Bling – one of my newest patterns featuring my 4th fabric collection – Geo Pop for Benartex/Contempo. Of course it would look great in any fabrics, which is what today’s topic is all about.

Bling Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson

Bling Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson

I love this design for Bling, and especially enjoy making fat quarter friendly quilts. When choosing fabrics, the easiest way to choose colors for a successful quilt is to pick a whole bunch of fabrics that you like with the same theme or color scheme, then pair them up with a highly contrasting background fabric.

Geo Pop fabric by Christa Watson

Geo Pop fat quarters for Bling.

For example, I knew I wanted to use as many fabrics as I could in the line and most are all very bright. So bright, bold, and geometric was my fabric “theme” for this quilt.

Because there’s a lot going on with the fabrics themselves, I paired them up with the lightest fabric in the line and the darkest fabric in the line to ensure there was contrast between the main fabrics and the background. I honestly couldn’t decide which I liked better, so I decided to make both quilts!

Geo Pop fabric by Christa Quilts

I used Tiny Hex black for the darker background and Op Squares white for the lighter one.

For me, fabric selection really is that easy. I don’t get hung up too much on color theory; rather I just go with my gut feeling. After all, most of us are pretty successful choosing what to wear each day, so choosing the colors our quilts will wear isn’t that much different, right?

Geo Pop by Christa Watson

Geo Pop – 20 Colors for Bling.
Click here to get the kit of 20 FQ’s plus background fabric.

My Bling quilt pattern calls for 20 fat quarters + 4 yards of background fabric for the Twin size that I’m making. Geo Pop has 25 prints in the line including several light and dark grays. To ensure I had the most contrast possible, I pulled out the 5 light and dark grays and just use the more colorful prints. I’ll plan to use the leftovers in another project, or add them to my stash.

Geo Pop by Christa Watson

I pulled these grays out of the bundle and will use them in another project.
You could also piece them into the back of the quilt.

For the white version, I’m using some of the leftovers to make a scrappy binding that frames the quilt. For binding on the black version, I’ll use the same fabric as the background so that the the negative space goes all the way to the edges – two slightly different looks for two great quilts!

Geo Pop by Christa Watson

Geo Pop full collection – 25 colorful prints!

The first step after choosing fabrics is to prewash and starch. I always prewash any fabric that’s a fat quarter or larger. My favorite starch is inexpensive Faultless premium starch from the grocery store. To prevent flaking, I spray starch on one side of the fabric, and then iron it from the opposite side, then repeat for both sides of the fabric.

In the next post, I’ll show you these lovelies all cut and ready to piece, so stay tuned!

Relevant Links:

***Thanks for your purchase – your support of our mom and pop shop makes my day!!***

LatticeWork Quilt Part 2 of 2 – Quick and Easy Walking Foot Quilting

If you missed it, click here for part 1 – tips on sewing the LatticeWork quilt top.

LatticeWork quilt by Christa Watson

LatticeWork is made from charm packs; I used my Abstract Garden fabric line.

Today I’ll be sharing how I quilted my LattticeWork quilt using a super simple, fast and fun walking foot quilting design. It’s called “wavy grid” and it’s one of my fave designs when I’m on a deadline, so you’ll probably see it in lots of my quilts!

Here’s a close detail shot of what it looks like quilted with my Aurifil Variegated Thread collection. I love the funky modern texture it adds to the quilt, especially where the thread contrasts the most:

LatticeWork Quilt Detail

The most fun part about machine quilting is choosing which thread color I’m going to use to quilt it. Because this quilt was so colorful, I could have used nearly any hue and it would look great. Below are the colors in my Variegated Collection.

Variegated collection by Christa Watson

Variegated collection by Christa Watson

Click here to get my Aurifil Variegated Thread Collection.

I chose to go with the cheddar/orange color because the variegation is really subtle and it reads as one shade of orange. But I love the slight sparkle that the it adds to the quilt!

Wavy Grid Quilting Detail

How to Quilt a Wavy Grid

Because I’m quilting continuous lines all the way across the quilt from edge to edge, it’s easiest done with a walking foot (or a built in dual-feed system like I’m using on my BERNINA 770 QE). The idea is to quilt a “line” from one end of the quilt to the other and slightly rotate the quilt from side to side to form the wavy lines.

First I do what I call “anchor” quilting: stitching in or near the ditch along the major seam lines to secure the quilt. Then I made additional passes across the quilt in both directions, creating a wavy grid. With each pass across the quilt, the gap in between the lines shrink. You can quilt a 2″ grid, 1″ grid, 1/2 grid, etc. depending on the look you want. Notice that nothing is marked – I just eyeball the spacing and it ends up looking great!!

Here’s a 4 minute silent video of me quilting the wavy grid on my LatticeWork quilt. I’m still getting the hang of editing videos but this is a good start!! Notice how I make one path across the quilt in both directions, then keep subdividing the area until the grid gets to the size I want. I hope you enjoy it!!

In the video above, notice how I stop and shift a lot. I’m quilting the area near my hands which is only a few inches at a time. When I feel like I’m starting to reach, that’s when it’s time to stop and shift the quilt. But you’ll get the hang of quickly so it’s not too disruptive.

I’m also quilting from edge to edge into the batting so I don’t have to worry about tying off my threads. I’ll just trim the excess and cover it all with binding when finished.

If you’d like to make this quilt , click either of the links below to purchase the pattern in your favorite format. I appreciate your support of my small mom and pop shop!

Lattice Work Quilt Pattern

If you have any questions about this quilt in particular, or the machine quilting process in general, please ask them in the comment box. I’d love you to enjoy making this quilt as much as I did!

LatticeWork quilt by Christa Watson

Happy piecing and quilting!!

Christa’s Soapbox: Thoughts About Being a QuiltCon Juror 2019

QuiltCon – the modern quilting show and conference hosted by The Modern Quilt Guild – has recently opened quilt submissions for their 2020 show, so I thought now would be an appropriate time to share about what it was like to be on the jury for this year’s show.

I’ve attended every event since the first one in 2013, have been lucky enough to have at least one quilt in every show, and have taught there 3 times so far (2016, 2017, 2019). In fact, I credit QuiltCon and The MQG with changing the course of my quilting career – for the better! So it was quite an honor and great responsibility when they invited me to be on the jury for the 2019 show, which took place in Nashville in February.

Cute QuiltCon Ribbons

QuiltCon award ribbons from the very first show in 2013

Now as you can imagine, I’m taking a bit of a risk here in even talking about this publicly since I know what a heartbreak it can be when your quilt doesn’t get in. Trust me, I’ve read enough “what were they thinking??” comments on social media to make my stomach turn. And I really do wish I could reach out and give every single person a huge hug for entering your gorgeous, wonderful, fabulous quilts!! It was truly a pleasure to see all 1800+ of them!!

Therefore, I thought it would be helpful and educational to talk about the experience in an open and honest way, with my hope for you to understand more about the process. I’ll be as transparent about it as I can, and would ask you the courtesy of being polite in your comments about this post.

My Quilt, “Charming Chevrons” hung in the very first QuiltCon in 2013!!

What’s a Juried Quilt Show?

First of all, let’s start with the basics. A “juried” show means that in order to display your quilt in the show, you must fill out an artist statement and include a high quality digital image of your finished quilt. A  panel of “jurors” (usually 4-5 people) look at each and every submitted quilt and then vote on which ones they believe should be a part of the show. The number one reason why a show is “juried” is simply because of supply and demand. There are only so many spots to hang quilts, and the number of entries far out weighs the number of spots available.

For example, each year QuiltCon receives approximately 1500-1800 entries and only has room for about 350 quilts. So that means 3 out of 4 quilts simply will not hang in the show due to space constraints. By comparison, a large national show (such as Road to California, Paducah, AQS, etc.) will likely have space to display 600-700 quilts or more, and my guess is that they don’t get anywhere near as many quilt entires. In fact, a friend recently told me that the upcoming International Quilt festival in Houston was able to accept about 75% of the quilts submitted this year. So please keep that in mind as I share more thoughts below.

To be clear, the JURY process and the JUDGING process are done by completely different people. The jury decides which quilts will hang in the show for the  judges to see.

Spiraling out of Control

My quilt, “Spiraling out of Control” hung at QuiltCon in 2015. Some day I’ll make a pattern!!

The QuiltCon Jury Process

Most of what I’m sharing here has been shared publicly so I’m not spilling any well-kept secrets. It’s up to an individual juror to decide whether or not they want to let others know they were part of the jury (after the show has ended of course). For obvious reasons, most people tend to stay silent about it.

Click here to read QuiltCon’s published judging and jurying documents.

In a nutshell, each juror takes a look at each and every single quilt that has been entered and gives it a numerical ranking. No juror knows how any other juror is voting and the final number is based on an average of all scores by all jurors. The juror gets to see two images of the quilt – an overall shot and a detail image. They can also read the artists’ statements if they so choose, but the juror does NOT see the names of who submitted each quilt. In this way, jurying is “blind” and fair.

The quilts that get the highest ranking are then accepted into the show, up until the maximum number of entries.  When there is a tie – usually for the mid-range of scores above the cutoff – the jury meets to discuss those quilts in more detail and decide which ones will be accepted until the total has been met. The MAJORITY of quilts fall into this category. So if yours didn’t make it in, I’m sure it barely missed the cutoff! (So try, try again!!)

The only category that was not juried was the youth category (quilts made by members under the age of 18). According to The MQG FAQ, “in order to encourage the next generation of quilters, in this category at least one quilt is accepted per quilter, should space permit it.” So if you know a child that wants to get involved with the show, I highly recommend encouraging them to enter!

My quilt, “Focal Point” from my first book hung at QuiltCon in 2016.

The Jury Takes Their Job Very Seriously

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard false rumors that the jury has an “agenda” on which type of modern quilt will be accepted (or not). That’s simply not true. I can tell you from my experience that the jury is a well-rounded group of folks with diverse backgrounds, quilting experience, and areas of artistic expertise. However, one thing the jury all has in common is that they make modern quilts and understand the modern aesthetic.

I can only speak to my experience doing this one time, but I can assure you that we were not instructed to favor any type of quilt over any other, we were not told to create a certain look for the show (other than modern) and we were expected to look at the quilts objectively without bias or favoritism. If we felt we couldn’t judge a quilt fairly on its own merits, then we could recuse ourselves from judging that quilt. There was no absolutely no drama when it came to any discussions and the whole experience was completely professional.

The jury IS allowed to enter a quilt into the show, (as are the judges) but they are NOT allowed to be judged- AND the jurying is still blind. So none of the jury knew if they were voting on other members quilts! For full disclosure, I did get ONE quilt juried into this year’s show – my Blooming Wallflowers quilt – but I had entered two more that didn’t get accepted. So yes, I got those “reject” letters, too!!

Diamond in the Rough Quiltcon 2017

My quilt “Diamond in the Rough” hung in QuiltCon 2017 and was in QuiltCon magazine that year.
It will be part of the Aurifil exhibit at this year’s International Quilt Festival in Houston.

Why Quilt Photography Can Make or Break Your Quilt

Unfortunately, there were a number of quilts that weren’t accepted simply due to poor photography. If we can’t tell if it’s finished or not, if we can’t see the quilting, if we can’t see the edges or the binding, it most likely won’t get in. If there are people in the quilt photo blocking the quilt, we can’t see what you are trying to show.

Also, some people try to get a “leg up” on the competition by creating a collage of more than one photo in the same image which usually works to their detriment. If we can’t tell what we are looking at, it most likely goes in the “not accepted” pile. We don’t need to see the back of the quilt unless that’s the side you are entering. Just show the front on a clear flat surface, with nothing distracting in the picture. And don’t “style” the shot. We just want to see the quilt, not a beautiful background or distracting props.

Also, it breaks my heart to see a quilt entry with poor lighting or fuzzy focus. There have been times where I’ve seen a gorgeous quilt photo later on social media (after the entries have been finalized) and I thought, why didn’t they use THAT image for their entry instead of the fuzzy one?? So again: good, clear, well-lit, uncluttered photography is a MUST.

Color Weave Quilt

The original version of Color Weave hung at QuiltCon in 2018.
it was in Modern Quilts Unlimited Magazine which is now sadly out of print!! 

My Personal Thoughts

The biggest take away from my experience on the jury is that it was extremely fair. For me, it was a very touching and heart-warming experience to look at each and every one of the quilts and read ALL of the artists’ statements. Some brought me to tears, others made me my heart sing with joy, and many made me think deeply about their work.

With over 1800 quilts to look at, I didn’t keep track of the hours and hours and HOURS I spent viewing all of the amazing, wonderful quilts. But It was the most uplifting quilting experience I’ve ever had – and if there were enough room, I would have accepted them all. I truly felt it an honor to interact with these quilts in such an intimate way.

One of the coolest things I heard this year was that so many quilters who were rejected previously were able to get something in this year. So you never know until you try. And I’ve seen many quilters who didn’t make it into QuiltCon go on to enter (and win) in other shows.

So I welcome your thoughtful questions and kind comments about the process. Of course I can’t speak to any individual quilts in the show as to why they were or were not accepted. And due to the sheer numbers of of quilts involved, there’s no feasible way to share individual juror feedback on any of the quilts. But what I can do is encourage you to enter future quilt shows.

Blooming Wallflowers by Christa Watson QuiltCon 2019

My one and only quilt that was juried into QuiltCon 2019 – Blooming Wallflowers.

It was so wonderful for my fellow jurors and I to be entrusted with your quilts. We all volunteered our time because we are just as passionate about quilts as you are. So please, if you entered a quilt and it didn’t get in, don’t think badly of the process, of THE MQG, or of your quilt. I can tell you personally that I saw your quilt and LOVED it – and would encourage you to keep making quilts, and PLEASE keep sharing them with the world!

I’m happy to continue this discussion in the comments as long as everyone plays nice. 🙂

Color Weave Quilt Along Week 6 – Stitching in the Ditch

Now we’ve reached my favorite part of the quilt-making process – machine quilting!! Quitling will be broken up into 2 parts so that it won’t feel so overwhelming. The quilting design I’ve chosen – random crosshatch, is actually very easy to do, but it can be a bit time-consuming if you like your quilting to be as dense as mine.

Random Crosshatch quilt plan

My favorite designs to quilt are those than can go all the way across the quilt without starting and stopping. That way I don’t have to worry about tying off and burying my threads. The random crosshatch above is basically a series of straight lines quilted across the quilt in both directions with a walking foot. You start and end each line of quilting in the batting, and that will get all trimmed up later once you add the binding.

Thread Choices

I also don’t want to stress too much over thread color. I prefer to use 1-2 colors for the whole quilt, if possible. My thread of choice is Aurifil 50 weight cotton because it comes in any color I need. It’s thin but strong and blends into the quilts I make rather than being the star of the show.

Because this quilt has so much color in it, I chose to use threads from my new Variegated Thread Collection. I used #4650 Leaves for the top of the quilt. Although it will show up on the gray sections, by the time I add lots of texture, it won’t be that noticeable.

Aurifil variegated thread

I like to “audition” my thread choices before I begin quilting.

For the bobbin, I used #3852 Liberty since it reads more pink. For 95% of my quilts, I use the same thread in top and bottom. But every now and then I’ll use two different colors when it makes sense.

The thread will still be visible on both sides, but with so many different colors (in the fabric and thread), these were the best choice. I made a practice piece with leftover scrap fabrics and tested both threads to make sure I’d be happy with the results before I started quilting my quilt.

Aurifil Variegated Thread

 #3852 Liberty and 4650 Leaves can both be found in my Variegated Thread Collection from Aurifil.

Machine Quilting – Stitch in the Ditch

To break the quilting into easier, doable steps, this week we’ll focus on just stitching in the ditch in both directions. This will secure the quilt for further quilting later, and will also evenly distribute the bulk of the quilting across the quilt. You can also decide at any point how lightly or densely you’d like to quilt the rest of the lines.

Here’s a short video clip showing how I deal with the quilt as I stitch in the ditch. I’m using my BERNINA dual feed foot which works the same way as a regular walking foot. I have an open toe so I can see what I’m doing and I reposition the quilt a lot so that my quilting lines are smooth the entire time. Also, pressing my seams open makes it sooo much easier to stay in the ditch!!

Notice in the video below that when I quilt an area without seams, I just eyeball the straight-line I’m stitching. Because it’s never more than 2″ that I have to eyeball, it works pretty well.

First, I started quilting from the right side of the quilt towards the middle. I quilted in the ditch every 2″ since that’s the finished size of my strips. I quilted all of the vertical seams first, then rotated the quilt and quilted all of the horizontal seems to create a quilted grid.

It’s easier to work from the side of the quilt towards the middle, because that’s less bulk to deal with at the beginning. By the time it gets too bulky, you’ll be halfway across the quilt and you can rotate the quilt, continuing from the center to the other side.

Here’s another video of me quilting from a wider angle. I really just scrunch and smoosh the quilt however I can, re-shifting whenever necessary.

Once I “anchor” or stabilize the quilt with ditching in both directions, I go back in and quilt randomly spaced lines, using the edge of my foot as a guideline for spacing. That will be our goal for next week, so I’ll see ya then!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Click here to purchase the Color Weave Quilt Pattern – paper version
Click here to purchase the Color Weave Quilt Pattern – digital download
Click here to purchase the Abstract Garden strip roll
Click here to get my Aurifil thread collections
Click here for links to the previous quilt along posts
Click here to share your progress in my Facebook group

Free Quilt Pattern Featuring Abstract Garden Fabric in Modern by the Yard

One of the things I love about designing fabric for Benartex is the free quarterly online magazine they produce, called Modern by the Yard. In each issue they include fabulous patterns made by some of the leading industry designers. I always love it when one of them wants to work with my fabric AND it’s extra special when their quilt with my fabric makes the cover!

Follow the Leader by Heather Black

In the latest issue, the amazing Heather Black has created her stunning quilt “Follow the Leader” which is made from a fat quarter bundle of Abstract Garden plus coordinating background fabric from Fandangle.

Abstract Garden FQ's

Click here to get a fat quarter bundle of Abstract Garden.

I love how Heather “rainbow-tized” the triangles to create color and movement in this quilt.

Follow the Leader by Heather Black

Here’s a fab in-progress shot of the quilt top. She really makes my fabrics sparkle!!

Follow the leader by Heather Black

Click here to download the latest issue of Modern by the Yard and get started on your own version of Follow the Leader, or any of the other great patterns featured in the issue!

Results from my Entries into DQN Quilt Show 2019 – Quilt Las Vegas

Earlier this spring, my local quilt guild held their annual show which has been going on for nearly 30 years (I think). It’s always fun to participate in my guild, and even more thrilling when my entries get a ribbon. So I thought I’d share them with you – along with the judging feedback I received:

Bling – Honorable Mention, Modern Category

Bling Quilt by Christa WatsonBling quilt pattern is now available in Print (click here) or PDF (click here).

This is the original version of my Bling quilt, made using a Fandangle fat quarters plus white background fabric. (I recently remade 2 more versions of the quilt using Geo Pop fat quarters with white or black background.)

Judge’s Comments for this quilt:
  • Print choices and placement create a lively quilt.
  • The woven quilting design contributes movement and texture.
  • Very good binding technique.
  • Pieced binding frames quilt well and contributes to unity.

Modern Star Struck – 2nd Place Pieced, Single Maker

Modern Starstruck by Christa Watson

The pattern for Starstruck can be found in my book Piece and Quilt with Precuts.

This is one of my favorite quilts because it was made using every fabric in my very first fabric line Modern Marks. The pattern comes from my book Piece and Quilt with Precuts and I was happy to be able to get a good color contrast without using any background fabrics. It’s all in how you pair them up! (The original quilt from the book was made in black and white.)

free-motion quilting on starstruck

Click here to get a Modern Marks fat quarter bundle – while supplies last!

The prints in this quilt are pretty busy so it’s hard to see the quilting, but I really enjoyed quilting it densely with 2 different designs in each block – that’s a total of 48 different motifs in one quilt!

Judge’s Comments for this quilt:
  • Excellent variety of prints create visual texture.
  • Very good value contrast between stars and background in individual blocks.
  • Blocks are well pieced.
  • Outside quilt edges should be straight and corners should be 90 degrees.
  • Good binding technique.

Color Weave – 1st Place Modern

Color Weave Quilt by Christa Watson

Click here to join the quilt along to make this quilt.
Color Weave was made from Abstract Garden precut strips + background.

It’s always hard to get a good pic of quilts hanging in a show, due to lighting and space constraints, but I love how the quilting shows up in this picture. I was pleasantly surprised at the positive comments I overhead about this quilt while walking the show. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a thing for bright, rainbow quilts!

Judge’s Comments for this quilt:
  • Beautiful color gradation.
  • Print choices lend wonderful visual texture.
  • Strong vertical lines are created through fabric placement.
  • Outside quilt corners should be 90 degrees.
  • Variegated thread unifies quilt top and provides visual accents on gray background fabrics.

Overall, I’m very pleased that the judge liked my bold bright colors and my busy fabric prints. The quilting wasn’t the star of the show in any of these quilts – and in fact, 2 of them utilized very simple walking foot quilting. I haven’t been entering as many quilt shows this year because I’ve been so busy designing fabrics and writing quilt patterns. But this was just the boost I needed to make it a priority once again!

New Quilt Patterns Featuring Geo Pop!

I’m excited to release three new patterns that I created to showcase my new fabric line, Geo Pop which will be shipping to stores in August/September. Just like all of my quilt patterns, they will look great in any fabrics you choose! And they are available in either print or PDF.

Bling – Fat Quarter Friendly

Bling Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson

Bling comes in three sizes and is made from 20 fat quarters plus background. I loved the design so much I had to make it twice! The key to color success is choosing a very high contrasting background. I wanted to show off the black and white prints from Geo Pop and I love how they turned out!

Optical Illusion – 3 Colors, Fun to Look At!

Bling Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson

It only takes 3 fabrics to create this stunning Optical Illusion! Scroll up and down to watch the lines play tricks on your eyes. Yes, they really are straight!! I’ve made my version using geometric prints in black, white and gray, but I’d love to see this made up in other colors, too! I’ve included instructions for 3 sizes and like all of my patterns, it also includes machine quilting suggestions.

Infrastructure – a Modern Row Quilt

Infrastructure Quilt Pattern

This stunning quilt is a collaboration between me and my very talented friend Heather Black. I sent her digital images of Geo Pop early on and asked her to come up with a fun modern design with straight piecing (rather than the curves she’s well known for). I think she knocked it out of the park with this design while cleverly using every fabric in the line. I love this quilt so much that it will be my next quilt along in September, once the fabrics have been released. I can’t wait!!

Once Geo Pop hits stores later this year, I’ll share more about the making of each quilt. Remember – I’m here to cheer you on every step of the way so that you enjoy making these quilts as much as I did!

Sneak Peek of My Newest Fabric Line – Geo Pop with Benartex!

Today I’m excited to share a quick sneak peek of my newest fabric line, Geo Pop from Benartex/Contempo Studio. It will debut at quilt market next week and I can’t wait!

Geo Pop by Christa Watson for Benartex

Click here to pre-order Geo Pop 25 Fat Quarters – shipping Aug/Sept, 2019.

Geo Pop is my fourth fabric line and I was super stoked to add black, white and gray to the mix of fun, bright geometrics. It mixes well with my previous collections: Modern Marks, Fandangle, and Abstract Garden. More info and patterns to come, so stay tuned – I’d better go pack!!

Where to Buy – Shipping in Aug/Sept

Quilt Shop Owners:

Click here to view the entire line from Benartex. You can order directly online from Benartex, from your independent sales rep, or from most major distributors:

Fans and Friends:

Please ask your favorite local quilt shop to carry it. If you don’t have one nearby,
click here to preorder FQ bundles for a limited time (one per person, please).

Geo Pop Fabric

Tutorial: How to Build a Design Wall for Quilting

When we moved into our new home, the highest priority for me was getting my quilting studio up and running since quilting is my full-time job. I’ve had many people asking me how I built my design wall in my old house, so when we created it again in the new place, I took step by step pictures so I could tell you all about it in detail. So here goes:

Design Wall built by Christa Watson and hubby

My design wall does double duty – I also use it for flat quilt photography.

Materials to Build a 96″ x 96″ Quilt Design Wall

Two Foam Core Insulation boards, 4′ x 8′ each. You can always cut them down if it’s too big. These are available from Home Depot or other home improvement stores. Be careful handling them as they are very fragile and can dent and break easily. When Jason and I purchased them, we had to look through all of them on display to find the nicest, newest looking boards.

Design Wall Boards

Getting the boards home in our SUV was the hardest part of the job! Fortunately they just barely fit in the back of the car with the seats down.

California King Size White flannel flat sheet. Because the design wall is square, you want as much extra room as possible to wrap around the edges. I found a 108″ x 108″ sheet set from Bed, Bath and Beyond. It was easier to purchase the whole sheet set rather than just the top sheet, so I just donated the fitted sheet and pillowcases. You’ll want to iron it ahead of time to get out all of the wrinkles. I did not prewash because I didn’t want it to shrink up.

White flannel sheet for design wall

Be sure to iron out the wrinkles as much as you can.

Supplies: washers, screws, duct tape, screwdriver, level and a staple gun. This design wall is very light weight and attached directly to the wall so no crazy equipment is needed. We used regular 2″ long screws with washers to hold them in place. A level comes in handy, too.

Tools and supplies to build a design wall

Not pictured: duct tape, level, and a hand-held screwdriver.

Step 1 – Tape the Insulation Boards together

The boards we bought have writing on one side, and a silver reflective surface on the other side. We chose the silver side to be the front so that none of the writing would show through on the front. It’s also easy to pin into.

Foam Board Front

One of the boards had a small dent on the front which we didn’t see. Fortunately, it didn’t show up at all, once we covered them in flannel and attached to the wall.

I thought it was funny that the boards say they are specifically for craft projects. I don’t remember that writing the last time I made a design wall for my other house over 5 years ago.

Foam Insulation boards writing

We started off by taping the boards together on top of a couple of tables and barstools pushed together at the right height. But then we realized you could do this on a hard floor as well. My previous studio was carpeted so we needed to do everything on a flat table. This time around, the studio floor worked well for all of the other steps.

Jason taped the back middle seam with duct tape as far as he could reach. We had to be careful handling it because it wanted to fold along the seam. At this point, it’s not very stable, but big and awkward.

Taping the insulation boards together

Step 2 – Cover the Boads with A Flannel Sheet

The reason I chose a flannel sheet is that it’s lightweight, gives an even surface, and fabric and quilts will stick to it. I also think it looks much nicer and cleaner than batting and I can still pin into it if needed. We laid the flannel sheet on the floor first, and then gently laid the taped boards wrong side up on top of it.

Flannel

There was just barely enough width on the floor for the sheet and boards because we installed a floor plug in the middle of the room where my sewing machine goes. It’s important to have a flat work surface when doing this part so it doesn’t dent the foam. I didn’t worry about the top seam in the sheet since it would be wrapped around to the back side.

When this is hung, the seam will be horizontally in the middle so that one board basically sits on top of the other. That will make the seam on the front side less noticeable and will give the whole structure more stability once it’s attached to the wall.

Design Wall in Progress

Very smoothly and carefully, we wrapped the excess flannel around the boards, 2 sides at a time.

Wrapping the board in flannel

First we stapled the “top” and “bottom” sides and then the edges, very close together.  Jason discovered that he had to put a little bit of pressure while using the gun and staple straight down, otherwise the staples would come out easily.

Stapling the sides

After a few staples, Jason drew a straight line so that he could pull the edges taught and even and line up the staples about 5″ or so from the edge. Keeping a little tension on the sheet was important so that it would be smooth and tight across the surface and not sag.

Level for marking

The corners were a bit bulky so I tried to fold them over as best as I could so that it was smooth and tight around the corners. We used lots more staples here. I probably could have cut some of the bulk from the corners, but didn’t want to risk it in case we had to redo something. Fortunately we didn’t and the bulk of the flannel was smooshed flat against the wall, once everything was attached.

On the sides with corners, Jason stapled a few in the middle, then the corners, then worked his way in sections to even out any of the stretch in the flannel.

Lots of Staples in the Corners

We added lots and lots of staples to secure the flannel.

Step 3 – Attach the Design Boards to the Wall

We measured where we wanted to hang the design wall – centered halfway across the room and in between two plugs on the wall. We wanted it 5″ from the floor so we found a box that height that we used to rest the design wall on while we gently nudged it into place.

My job was to carefully hold the design wall against the wall while Jason attached it into place with screws. He used a measuring tape and level to ensure that it stayed straight and square while attaching.

Measure

Jason measured 1 1/2″ away from the edges using a washable marking pen. Then he screwed the screws directly into the wall with a regular screwdriver, making a hole in the flannel that was covered by the washer. The washer gives a decorative element and also prevents the screw from digging into the foam.

Attaching the screws in the design wall

First Jason attached two screws on either side, where the boards meet up in the middle. This would be the two top corners of the bottom foam board. Then he attached screws in the upper corner of the design wall, and then in the lower corners.

Attaching Top Screws

Then he attached 2 more screws in the lower corners of the first design board – so 8 screws and washers to secure the boards to the wall, holding down all 4 corners of each foam board.

Attaching side screws

We attached a total of 14 screws and washers, evenly across the top and side edges. Here’s what it looks like with all screws attached. You can see the faint line where the boards meet up in the middle, but that softens up over time and will be mostly covered by quilts anyway.

Finished Design Wall

I added a recent quilt finish to the wall to give my room a pop of color that I really love! Now I’m ready to make and photograph more quilts for your viewing pleasure!!

Christa Watson Quilt Studio

The quilt on the wall is from my Rainbow Weave quilt kit.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and peek into my sewing room. Because I know you’ll ask – my sewing table is one I purchased from a dealer over 20 years ago. Sadly the dealer is no longer in business and I can’t remember the brand of table it was! But I’m in the process of finding a new table with a built-in side section that forms an L shape – giving me more room to hold up the quilt. So be on the lookout for more sewing room updates, and more fabulous quilts!

Blooming Wallflowers Week 7 – Machine Quilting Part 1

Now we get to my absolute favorite part of the quilt-making process – machine quilting!!! I’m breaking this section into 2 posts so you’ll have plenty of time to get ‘er done! And thanks to all of you who keep sharing your progress, no matter what step you are on. It’s so inspiring to see all of the fantastic Blooming Wallflowers out there!! Remember to scroll to the end of this post for links to all of the quilt along steps and other important info.

Blooming Wallflowers Quilting

Above is my sewing machine setup. I have a drop in table so that my sewing machine lies flush with the table. I’ve also put another table to my left, forming an “L” so that the quilt has plenty of room and won’t fall off the table. I’ll sit in the chair and scrunch and smoosh the quilt out of the way as I quilt.

Make a Quilting Plan

I always have a plan when I’m going to quilt a quilt. That way there are no surprises and I can enjoy the quilting process. Here’s my basic quilting plan that’s included in the Blooming Wallflowers quilt pattern:

Blooming Wallflowers Block Quilting Plan

I’m quilting 3 different designs: chevrons in the print triangles, pebbles in the light blue triangles, and jagged stipple in the background. I can quilt all of the triangles per block at once without stopping; then I’ll go back and quilt the navy blue background later. I used a light blue thread from my Aurifil Piece and Quilt collection Neutrals on the triangles, and will use a darker blue thread from my Colors collection for the background.

Free Motion Quilting Blooming Wallflowers

Here’s what the back side of the quilt looks like after quilting all of the triangles. I always use the same color thread in top and bobbin so that if there are any tension issues, it won’t show. I don’t mind seeing the quilting on the back of the quilt. In fact, I actually like how it shows up!

Notice how my actual quilting deviated slightly from the plan. I decided to quilt a few more lines in the chevrons, and I embellished the chevrons with an extra row of pebbles and some zig-zags to jazz it up a bit.

Step by Step Quilting Videos

Here are a few short videos of me quilting the blocks so you can see how I did it. Be sure to enlarge the screen for a better view:

First, I stitched in the ditch very carefully around one light blue triangle.

Then I filled in the light blue triangle with pebbles. I’m using a thicker ruler foot because I’m doing the pebbles and ruler work all at the same time.

Next, I used a special acrylic ruler to quilt straight line chevrons. I didn’t worry about the lines being equal in distance or hitting the points exactly. I don’t actually love doing ruler work because it’s a little too fussy for my taste. But I’ll use it to quilt straight lines as long as they don’t have to be exact.

Once the chevrons were quilted, I embellished one section with free-motion zig-zags. I quilted each section of triangles (the Abstract Garden prints and the light blue background) in one pass, with only one start and stop for the whole block.) In other words, I did all of the pebbles in one triangle and then went straight into the chevrons.

To start and a line of stitching, I take about 6-8 teeny tiny stitches and then start quilting normally. When I’m done, I end with 6-8 teeny tiny stitches to hold it in place and cut off the excess threads. Starting and stopping in a seam makes it less noticable.

Next week, we’ll quilt the background! I recommend trying out the quilting designs on a scrap of fabric and batting first, before applying them to your quilt.

IMPORTANT LINKS